A larger share of American women are working for pay than at any time in history. According to a recent analysis, this increase has been led by an unexpected group: mothers of children under 5 years of age.
Although mothers in this group have always worked less than other women, their gains have been the largest since the pandemic. AnalysisBy the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a key reason has been identified: the new ability of some mothers, particularly those who are married with college degrees, to work remotely.
“What’s happening to married, well-educated women with young children is crazy,” Lauren Bauer, a Brookings fellow and author of the Sarah Yu Wang study, said in the analysis. “These are women who see themselves as workers. “They were on an upward trend before the pandemic and they came back and kept moving forward.”
Julia Kintz took the job leading analytics at Zillow two years ago, when her children were 6 months and 11 years old. One reason he wanted the job, he said, was that since the pandemic, Zillow has allowed employees to live where they want and work flexible schedules.
She lives outside San Francisco, where Zillow has its offices, but rarely goes in. When she had her youngest, she could avoid carrying breast milk pumping supplies to and from work. She saves 90 minutes a day by not travelling. She might give her older child breakfast after school and take him to sports practice and bar mitzvah preparation.
In previous jobs, she said, she felt she had to figure out how to handle work and parenting on her own, and that she might have to quit if she couldn’t do that. “It always felt like a mystery, like I was an exception,” Ms. Keentz said. “Zillow is the first company I worked for where flexibility is an externally stated thing.”
The share of working women in the United States increased rapidly with the women’s movement in the 1970s. For those ages 25 to 54, it rose to more than 77 percent in the 1990s, when changes in welfare and the earned-income tax credit pushed more women into work. But then it stalled, even as peer countries continued to grow. Economists have given reason for this The lack of family-friendly policies such as paid leave and subsidized child care in the United States. Furthermore, employers are expecting round-the-clock work AvailabilityA challenge with the kids at home.
Labor force participation for all working-age adults, including mothers, peaked in late 2019, just before the pandemic, when a combination of very low unemployment and some state and local policies eased the path to finding a job.
Today, 77.7 percent The number of women ages 25 to 54 who are employed is a new high, and is evidence that school and child care closures due to the pandemic are wiping out decades of gains in women’s employment. A larger share of mothers of preschool and school-aged children are working now than just before the pandemic.
Several factors have brought more women into the workforce in recent months. There were temporary federal expansions of paid leave and child care subsidies during the pandemic, and some state and city made equal benefits Permanent. The tight labor market has likely contributed by making jobs more attractive and, like inflation, making higher incomes more necessary. And cultural shifts that began before the pandemic are continuing — women are getting more education and having children later, and investing more of their time and identity in careers.
Still, researchers say a particularly impactful change for parents has been remote work, for those with office jobs, and greater flexibility over when and where work is done. These pandemic-induced changes are also benefiting other groups, such as people with disabilities, who are also working at record levels.
Becca Kosani took a new job as a health insurance consultant when her oldest daughter, Emilia, now 3, was a baby. He described it as a “scary move” because consultations required constant travel with a child and a husband whose business, engine rebuilding, could not be run from home.
“Women are working more because they have to,” she said. “Our day care costs more than our mortgage. “I’m a high earner and I look for coupons for my groceries.”
Then the pandemic hit, and the trip never came to fruition, as clients were working remotely and decided it was more efficient. She works from her home office in Missouri City, Texas.
During breaks, she washes clothes or does chores. Of activities like riding a bike or foraging for pecans from her backyard tree, she said, “That’s time gifted back to me that I can spend with my kids when they’re home.” She may pass out when one of them has an ear infection or has ballet class after school.
She drives 1-year-old Emilia and Isabel home from preschool each day. They take it slow, stopping to look at the leaves, something she said she would miss if she were visiting or visiting: “It’s the joy of my life to be able to do this “
The analysis did not include fathers, but other data suggests that even those who can work from home are spending more time parenting than before the pandemic, and that flexibility is more important than once. Give more importance in comparison.
“The ‘new normal at work’ is at work here,” said Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, who won the Nobel Prize this month for her research on female employment. Some women who would have stopped working when their children were young, he has found: “This is a big silver lining for the pandemic.”
The Hamilton Project analysis shows that mothers of infants and young children, the age group that requires significant hands-on care, have benefited most from remote work. Among college-educated mothers of children under 5, 80.3 percent are working, up from the previous high of 77.4 percent at the end of 2019. Nearly half of them said in federal surveys that they work from home at least once a week, which is very high. A larger share than any other group.
Women with less education, and those who are Hispanic or unmarried, are more likely to have jobs that cannot be done remotely, such as retail clerks or health assistants. Although this group has largely returned to work, they are still working below pre-pandemic rates: Among mothers with young children and those with a high school diploma or less, 54.4 percent are working, compared to 2019. At the end of the year it was 56.1 percent.
These workers are also less likely to find employers that offer other types of family-friendly benefits, or flexible hours with spouses. Researchers say it will be necessary for government policies to reach all workers.
“Women who can’t work remotely need special attention,” said Misty Heggness, an economist at the University of Kansas. “If anything good can come from our awareness and understanding, it is how we can create better social policies and social and structural supports.”
by graphics francesca paris,